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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: college counseling

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January 13, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Want more kids in college? Check school counselor caseloads

College Advising Corps adviser Jennifer Alcaraz helps Marcus Jackson through the complicated college application process at De Anza High School in El Sobrante, Calif. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2014.

College Advising Corps adviser Jennifer Alcaraz helps Marcus Jackson through the complicated college application process at De Anza High School in El Sobrante, Calif. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2014.

The job of high school guidance counselor is a catch-all: Part graduation-credits overseer, testing administrator, shrink and higher-education shepherd. Seem like too much to do well? New research agrees.

So while President Obama talks about getting more students into community college, and Washington state does its part with College Bound Scholarships, the people actually tasked with guiding kids in this direction — high school counselors — are spread much too thin. The result: Many states essentially expect students to “just figure it out,” says the Education Commission of the States, a think tank tracking education policy.

But that is not happening.

Data presented by the Education Commission shows that high school counselors’ time, attitudes and priorities make a huge difference in whether kids actually enroll in college. Among schools with high college-going rates, counselors spend the majority of their time on this, and say that their number one goal is helping students attain a postsecondary education.


Comments | More in News | Topics: college counseling, guidance counselors

April 12, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Guest: Give counselors the opportunity to develop skills, network together

Jenee-Headshot (1)

Jenée Myers Twitchell

High-school guidance counselors are often misunderstood, unappreciated, and not treated as educational leaders. Like teachers, principals and central office leaders, they ought to be held to high expectations and provided professional development that attends to their ever-changing roles.

Guidance counselors take on all the following challenges: supporting socio-emotional growth, teaching healthy living, parent-teacher-student mediation, discipline enforcement, and college and career readiness, among other duties.

But even in the best master’s degree programs, they rarely get a single day covering the last topic, college and career readiness. As one of my counselor colleagues says: “The sky might fall if there were actually an entire course devoted to college readiness support.”

Yet, by 2020, 70 percent of the jobs in Washington state will require a college degree or career credential. Meanwhile, the number of low-income students, whose first language is not English, or who are ethnic minorities, is rising. These students possess amazing assets. They also face significant challenges. Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — or the new Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA), which is state financial aid for students who can’t file a FAFSA due to immigration status — can be worse than filing taxes.

In these students’ schools, who figures out whether they need to take Spanish if they already speak Amharic fluently? Who makes sure they file the FAFSA so that they can afford to pay for the new Bachelor’s of Applied Science degree at South Seattle College? Increasingly, this is expected of the high-school guidance counselor.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: college counseling, Dream Project, Jenee Myers Twitchell

April 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM

In their own words: Students talk about high-school counseling, applying to college

Education Lab’s latest story focuses on the changing role of high-school guidance counselors. As traditional counselors’ face increased workloads, programs like Seattle’s Rainier Scholars and the National College Advising Corps are providing disadvantaged students with one-on-one assistance as they navigate the college application process.

We recently asked several students — some from Rainier Scholars, some from the National College Advising Corps and some who have worked with traditional counselors — to tell us what they’ve experienced as they apply to college.


Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: college counseling, higher ed, National College Advising Corps

April 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Guest: Use other resources to free up counselors’ time


Bruce Band

Today’s young people need sophisticated skills to tackle life after high-school graduation, whether that includes college or a technical career. So what can counselors and other educators do to help them make this transition?

Some of the answer may lie in freeing counselors to mentor lagging students at all levels of school, including high school. Additional funding from the state Supreme Court’s mandate will be critical, but some creative repurposing of new and existing funds could also play a useful role.

High school counselors do help students with the college application process, but a myriad other duties limits the amount of time and energy they can put into this task. Oftentimes, this college advisement amounts to little more than impersonal classroom presentations.

Students whose families have already channeled them to higher education are the ones who get direction out of such presentations, while those who profoundly need the information tune out because they lack the framework of expectation and personal infrastructure upon which to hang what they are being told.

Outside of the family, the only really effective way to steer students toward post-secondary education is by building personal relationships with kids at each level of schooling. Unfortunately, our focus on testing has diverted considerable time from such informal tutelage, and budget cuts have further undercut that traditional role.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Bruce Brand, college counseling

April 12, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Rewind: Google+ Hangout on guidance counseling and college readiness

[do action=”custom_iframe” url=”//” width=”630″ height=”500″ scrolling=””/] Watch a replay of our April 17 Education Lab Google+ Hangout about college readiness and guidance counseling. Our panelists were:  Jameil Butler, an adviser with the National College Advising Corps in Oakland Angela Tang, a regular school counselor at DeAnza High, in Richmond, Calif., where the Advising Corps has been at work for…


Comments | More in News | Topics: college counseling, live chat, National College Advising Corps

April 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Tell a story about how you got into college at our May 20 Storytellers event


Illustration by Boo Davis / The Seattle Times

Do you have an interesting story to share about getting into college? Education Lab is recruiting current students and recent grads to share short, inspirational tales about how they made a successful transition to higher education.

Selected speakers will get coaching and appear at our May 20 event, Storytellers: How I Got Into College, at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

To participate, call 206-464-2057 and tell us about an obstacle you overcame to get into college. Your recording should be no more than two minutes and include your full name, phone number and email address.


Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: college counseling, higher ed

April 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Join us at our May 20 event ‘Storytellers: How I got into college’

Rose McAleese

Rose McAleese, emcee

Marcus Affleje

Marcus Affleje, storyteller

Miki Cabell

Miki Cabell, storyteller

Riley Germanis

Riley Germanis, storyteller

Melody Salcedo

Melody Salcedo, storyteller

Ameen Tabatabai

Ameen Tabatabai, storyteller

Are you a student dreaming of a degree but wondering how to get there? A parent wondering how to help your child get into college?

Join us on Tuesday, May 20, at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute for a night of storytelling. Current students and recent grads will deliver powerful individual stories on the theme: “How I overcame an obstacle to get into college.”

Their stories will move you. All storytellers and college-access experts will be available after the show to answer your questions and provide advice for going to college.

Bring your whole family. We’ll provide a light dinner, child-care and translation services. Please let us know what your needs are by emailing

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Storytelling begins at 6 p.m.

Admission is free, but you must register in advance. Click here to register online.

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
104 17th Ave S, Seattle

The event is organized by Education Lab and the Road Map Project.

About our emcee:

Rose McAleese is a poet and filmmaker in Seattle. She began writing poetry before she actually knew how to write, filling dozens of notebooks with her indecipherable scrawl. She was a member of the 2011 Seattle Adult Poetry Slam team and was named “Rookie of the Year.” In 2012 she represented Seattle at the Women of the World Poetry Slam.

About our storytellers:

Marcus Aflleje, 31, is a Pacific Islander senior at the Institute of Technology of the University of Washington Tacoma. He was born in Tacoma and lived in and outside of Washington before attending Henry Foss High School. This June, Marcus will start a full-time job at Boeing’s Information Technology Career Foundation Program.

Miki Cabell, 48, is a graduate student at the Evergreen State College’s Masters in Public Administration program with an emphasis in tribal governance. She is Lakota and Gaelic, and owns a home in Hoquiam with her two adult daughters, and family. She will graduate in June with plans to pursue her Ph.D.

Riley Germanis, 21, is a senior at Western Washington University studying mathematics. He will continue his education this summer at Seattle Pacific University as a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in the Teaching Mathematics and Science program. He grew up in Federal Way.

Melody Salcedo, 25, is graduating from Bellevue College this spring with an associate degree in world language. She plans to study abroad at Temple University Japan and pursue a bachelor’s degree in international business. She was born in Los Angeles but raised in Colima, Mexico, until the age of 13.

Ameen Tabatabai, 21, is a junior at the University of Washington. He was born and raised in Redmond and always dreamed about attending UW from a young age. After being diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) at the age of 10, he had a liver transplant in 2010. Since then, he has been inspired by his experiences to study bioengineering and give back to the transplant community.


Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: college counseling, National College Advising Corps, Rainier Scholars